The keys are so hot, they're smoking!

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2008/07/15 03:01 -04:00, original URI:

So the question that came in from Grant via the Contact link was kind of interesting:

What are the "Hot keys for input language" and are they used?

The reason I find this interesting is that they aren't all that well documented. :-)

In XP if you have more than one keyboard installed, the Text Services and Input Languages dialog will have an exciting button enabled:

This Key Settings... button, when pressed, opens up the dialog that Grant is talking about:

The Advanced Key Settings dialog lets you change the various hot keys to switch to specific keyboard layouts -- which can be handy if there are a few that you always switch to.

That Change Key Sequence... button is where the assignment happens:

You basically get to choose between

as an easy way to automatically switch to the keyboard layout in question.

After clicking OK, you will see the keystroke combination you assigned:


And in Vista this was a bit more discoverable...

Just a tab away, no new dialog, you can find Advanced Key Settings:

And the new Change Key Sequence... button will take you to another slightly changed new dialog:

This new dialog has the same keys on its list, but it supports three types of combinations:

  • CTRL+<some key>
  • CTRL+SHIFT+<some key>
  • LEFT ALT+SHIFT+<some key>
  • which obviously increases the number of possible keystrokes you can use.

    Though this does lead to a point of diminishing returns as you quickly run out of ways to remember all of the different combinations (let alone the need to know all of them!).

    The main benefit is that the first option on the list, the new one, is the easiest one to hit (no need for that shift key!).

    If you have more than two keyboards installed on your language bar but there are a smaller number you switch between all the time, this becomes a very useful little feature....

    Soon, I'll talk about some of the interesting problems that can pop up here, beyond the IME-specific ones I have pointed out before in blogs like No CONTROL over the SPACE being filled with CTRL+SPACE.

    Stay tuned!


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    # Centaur on 15 Jul 2008 1:25 PM:

    I wonder what is the target audience for these hot keys.

    If you type just one language, there is no need for switching.

    If you type two, you have an option of assigning a key combination for each language, or assigning a single switch combination. In the latter case the combinations offered are significantly easier to press but still require two keys. (I am not going to consider the backtick key as an option because in Russian this sacrifices the letter Yo which is the subject of a big debate, and I happen to be on the “pro” side.) The downside of the switch key is that it introduces a mode — you have to remember your current layout.

    If you type in more than two languages, switch keys become impractical because not only you have a mode, but you have to remember which other language is in which direction and how far. So hot keys for each individual language become viable. However, Ctrl+Shift+<digit> is so cumbersome to type, and Ctrl+<digit> can be useful shortcuts in applications (e.g. in Excel Ctrl+1 opens the Format Cell dialog).

    Ideally, there would be several separate conveniently placed physical keys for language switching. But that’s not gonna happen.

    In the pre-Windows era, the more advanced Russian keyboard switching programs allowed the use of left and right Shift, Ctrl and Alt and any combinations thereof as switch keys and as language hot keys. This technique was undeservingly forgotten.

    # Jeroen Ruigrok van der Werven on 16 Jul 2008 6:46 AM:

    Given the fact that I use over 3-4 IMEs at any given moment (both on Unix and on Windows) prefer the Alt-Shift circular switch key combination along with Alt-` for enabling/disabling.

    One thing about the Japanese IME, Michael, in its configuration it lists various things you can do with the right keypresses (space for starting conversion, F5 and F6 for katakana/hiragana and halfwidth/fullwidth switching), but for some options I never managed to find any standard US-intl keyboard defined key combinations. Is this documented somewhere? I couldn't find much information in the help of the JP IME.

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    2008/07/16 The situation was quite grave when I realized how "tepid" those hot keys were

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